work of dogs
Culture: Science & History
During the summer of 1938, a frail 82-year-old man was forced by the Nazis to flee his home. On the train out of Vienna, along with other family members, was his Chow companion Lün. Upon arriving in Dover, in accordance with English laws, Lün was taken from him and placed in the quarantine kennels at Ladbroke Grove, London. Just five days after Freud settled into his new house, the weary exile ventured out on his first trip. This is how an Australian newspaper, The Referee, described the event:
Freud found his journey across London tiring. He seemed to find it a great effort to walk up the path to the front door, supported by his daughter, Dr. Anna Freud. But nothing could have kept the great scientist away from his dog friend. And yesterday I was told by Mr. Kevin L. Quin, head of the quarantine kennels, how Lün leapt to meet him at his approach, glad recognition in every gesture. “It was difficult to say which was more delighted,” Mr. Quin told me. “I have never seen such happiness and understanding in an animal’s eyes …. He played with her, talked to her, using all sorts of little terms of endearment, for fully an hour. And, though the journey is long for a man of his years, he said he was resolute in coming to see Lün as often as he can.”
It has been noted that any person who tries seriously to figure out human behavior will sooner or later come to appreciate the company of dogs. Sigmund Freud was no exception. At the onset of the Second World War, he was especially disillusioned with his fellow man. Freud had devoted his life to analyzing the contradictory and irrational aspects of the unconscious mind, a labor that made animals seem much easier to understand. His daughter Anna recalled that “[w]hat Freud valued in his dogs was their gracefulness, devotion, and fidelity; what he frequently stressed and praised as a decided advantage over men was their absence of any ambivalence. ‘Dogs,’ as he used to say, ‘love their friends and bite their enemies, in contrast to men who are incapable of pure love and must at all times mix love and hate in their object relations.”
The first dog to live at Berggasse 19, Freud’s Vienna apartment, was a German Shepherd named Wolf. Freud gave him to Anna in 1925 for protection on her long walks through the city. But Wolf’s services extended to other arenas—he once bit Ernest Jones (a colleague and future biographer) in 1927. Freud felt that Jones deserved it, probably because years before Freud had worried that Jones would seduce Anna on her first visit to England. In a sense Freud saw Wolf as substitute figure for himself, keeping Anna safe and punishing annoying guests. Years later Freud wrote Jones the following lines, again identifying with the dog: “Our Wolf, too, who once behaved with such unfriendliness toward you is now an old man, in his doggy way as old as me, i.e., over eleven years.”
But Wolf could also act as a surrogate for others. Freud admitted that he bestowed on Wolf the tender feelings intended for his grandson Heinele, who had died as a young boy. Animals played a similar role for Anna, who as an adult could more readily show affection for her father through the family dogs. On Freud’s birthdays she would always compose a canine poem and attach it to the dog’s collar. At first Wolf had the sole honor of delivering the birthday greetings, but in 1928 Freud acquired a dog of his own. This Chow, LünYug, was run over by a train in August of 1929 when she was only 15 months old. Freud was dejected and wouldn’t hear of getting a replacement. By the next spring, however, he was ready for another Chow, Lün Yug’s sister Jofi. This dog was to become Freud’s cherished pet for the next seven years.
On his 74th birthday, while away in Berlin for medical care, Freud received Jofi’s first doggerel verse:
Jofi who leaps/and through the door escapes,/ho slips the leash/and fights with enemies,/ho stretches out in greeting and/licks your hand, sends herewith/on May the sixth/a symbol that/should indicate/how she wants to change/and act more restrained:/wants to scarcely move when/doors are opened/does not want to bark nor scrap/nor run nor leap/hardly wants to drink or eat.
So speaks Jofi sad at heart/sorry that we are apart.
Jofi was always by Freud’s side—on his walks, at mealtime and even in his office with the famed upholstered couch. Freud’s longtime housekeeper Paula Fichtl remembered Freud saying that Jofi had a keen analytic insight into his patients. And Freud could always tell when the hour was up because Jofi would start to act restless. The poet and analysand Hilda Doolittle recalled feeling “annoyed at the end of my session as Jofi would wander about and I felt that the professor was more interested in Jofi than he was in my story.” It’s also likely that the patient depicted in the “Wolf Man” case study (so named because of his fear of wolves) had to face Anna’s dog Wolf during some of his sessions with Freud!
Freud often mentioned Jofi in his diaries, noting such details as her general health, her stays at the kennels and the fates of her litters. Moreover, he spared no expense on Jofi, including paying for a complicated operation needed to remove some ovarian cysts. On January 14, 1937, a few days after this procedure, Jofi died of heart failure, and Freud deeply mourned her. As he put it, “one cannot easily get over seven years of intimacy.” Ernest Jones observed that at this stage of his life Freud knew he couldn’t live without a dog. Jofi had originally come into the household with a gentler Chow named Lün, who was given away to friends because the two didn’t get along well. The day after Jofi’s death, Lün (named after Freud’s first Chow, Lün Yug) returned to Freud.
Lün not only helped Freud endure Jofi’s loss, she also helped lift his spirits as both his health and the political situation in Austria deteriorated. Ever since a cancer operation in 1923, Freud had been forced to use a jaw prosthesis that made it difficult for him to chew, and as his illness progressed he took great pleasure in seeing the dogs chomp down their food. But it was a Chow named Topsy who provided Freud the most vicarious relief during his protracted illness. Topsy belonged to Freud’s close friend and benefactress Princess Marie Bonaparte. While Freud introduced Bonaparte to psychoanalysis, Bonaparte turned Freud into a dog lover. More significantly, she would ransom Freud’s family out of Austria.
Before they fled Vienna, Freud and Anna collaborated on a German translation of Bonaparte’s 1936 work Topsy Chow-Chow au poil d’or (Topsy: The Story of a Golden Haired Chow). The book deals with Topsy’s struggle with cancer. The parallels between Freud’s and Topsy’s disease are quite uncanny—both had tumors on the right side of their oral cavities and both were treated with surgery and radiation. In fact, Marie Bonaparte had at different points consulted the same doctors at the Curie Institute in Paris about Freud and Topsy’s condition. Freud, Anna and Marie didn’t explicitly discuss the clear symbolism behind Topsy, but they were well aware that it helped them cope with Freud’s own cancer. Interestingly enough, after suffering a stroke in 1982, Anna tried to dictate a book about her Chow at the time—also named Jofi.
Although Topsy survived his illness, Freud became increasingly worse in England. While Lün was at the kennels, a small Pekinese named Jumbo was brought in to keep him the doctor company. However, Anna noted that her father remained loyal to Lün, so the Pekinese grew more attached to Paula the housekeeper. On December 6, 1938, six months to the day after Lün’s quarantine began, Anna retrieved the Chow from the state kennels. Freud thus enjoyed his last days in the company of Lün, but eventually his own beloved dog would not come near him due to the putrid odor emanating from his face. Lün’s rejection only added to his distress, and as the pain became intolerable, Freud decided to be euthanized with a lethal dose of morphine.
Freud confronted his own death—much like he had lived his whole life—in a logical and unsentimental manner. There was, however, one great exception. In a letter to Marie Bonaparte, he rationally explained that dogs provide “affection without ambivalence, the simplicity of a life free from the almost unbearable conflicts of civilization, the beauty of an existence complete in itself.” But then Freud revealed the slightly embarrassing kind of sentiment that’s familiar to all dog owners: “Often when stroking Jofi, I have caught myself humming a melody which, unmusical as I am, I can’t help recognizing as the aria from Don Giovanni:
A bond of friendship unites us both ….”
Good Dog: Behavior & Training
Therapy dogs attend marathon festivities
After the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon, therapy dogs from the Lutheran Church Charities K-9 Comfort Dog Ministries were there within 24 hours. The group consists of 70 therapy dogs (all Golden Retrievers) from 10 states. Small groups of the dogs visit churches, schools, hospitals and disaster areas, offering the soothing, healing presence that only dogs can provide. Many survivors and first responders in Boston benefited from spending time with these highly trained and lovable dogs.
This year at the Boston Marathon and associated events, four dogs from this group will again be in attendance. Ruthie, Hannah, Luther and Rufus have traveled from Illinois to offer support and lots of opportunities for petting and loving. They are making appearances throughout the four days of events that conclude with the race on Monday, April 21, 2014. It’s the fourth visit of “Comfort Dogs” to the area since the events at last year’s race.
Every year, runners and fans of the sport watch the Boston Marathon. This year the audience is bigger because the whole world is watching. I’m so glad that these therapy dogs are a part of the celebration and that they have been part of the healing all year. They are contributing to making Boston strong.
An abused pup's remarkable friendship with a boy with autism.
April is both Autism Awareness and Prevention of Animal Cruelty month. This story of Jonny, the eight-year-boy with autism, and Xena, the horribly abused Pit Bull, present a powerful and heart-warming tale about survival and the indescribable bond we have with dogs. The pup was severely abused and starving to death when she came into the DeKalb (Georgia) Animal Services shelter, she was given only an one percent chance of survival. Jonny’s mom, Linda Hickey, had been following the pup’s story on Facebook and decided to take the chance that this pup would be the perfect match for her son. See how right she was!
Xena won the ASPCA’s Hero of the Dog Award in 2013, and is now in the running for the “emerging dog hero” award from the American Humane Association.
Linda Hickey poignantly tells their story in this video. Watch it to see why Xena deserves your vote.
For more, see this recent interview as well.
And watch Jonny sing “You Got a Friend in Me” to his best pal, Xena.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Is it possible for a dog to help in a recovery?
That first weekend, we weren’t sure we were keeping him. It was a trial placement.
As we drove the excited little Terrier away from his foster home—the two foster dads waving fondly from their front step—he dashed frantically around our car’s interior, clambering over everyone, scratching our legs, trying desperately to reach an open window—not to escape, it turned out, but so he could experience head-on the full 45 mph smash of wind in the face. In the front passenger seat, the scruffy brown mutt perched on my husband’s right thigh, curled his front paws over the lowered window, angled himself toward the side mirror, and stretched his torso and neck into the gale. The airstream peeled back the fur from his face, the lips from his teeth and the unshorn bangs from his eyes until the wild-eyed dog with airborne ears looked like a demon flying beside the car.
At our house, the little demon—a knee-high, wire-haired Terrier mix (something like a Cairn, I thought, though the foster dads thought Yorkie), two or three years old—streaked up the hardwood staircase and stumbled back down and flew back up and tripped back down. He flushed the two cats from their hiding places and chased them until they vaulted to furniture above his reach; he nosed the two elderly, bewildered dogs as they lay curled together in a dog bed; then he ran upstairs and downstairs some more. He’d been captured by Southern Animal Rescue at a Wal-Mart parking lot, where he’d lived and foraged as a stray. Evidently, neither the Wal- Mart parking lot nor the foster home had included stairs, for his interest in them was boundless. I was down there! Now I am … wait for it … up here! Bark bark bark! Watch out—I’m coming down! Bark bark bark!
He was enthusiastic about everything. He yapped at a peeved cat sitting on top of the piano and then pursued the other cat up the stairs lickety-split. He was getting good at stairs! The two elderly dogs, rousing themselves from their autumnal haze, raised their heads and knitted their eyebrows in looks of concern. Theo, an 11-year-old miniature Wire- Haired Dachshund, had pursued a lifetime career as first lieutenant to Franny, the stout, freckled, 13-year-old Rat Terrier. Now, imagining he needed to put a stop to these shenanigans (though Franny likely felt no such thing), Theo sprang into aggressive action and hurried to the bottom of the stairs where the new pup was playing Chutes & Ladders with himself. Teeth bared, Theo tried to take a snarling bite out of the young Terrier’s leg on his next trip to the bottom. The new guy yelped and ran back up. A few of the humans suddenly couldn’t remember why anyone had thought getting a new dog was a good plan.
In the fall of 2012, we had five teenagers living at home (ages 15, 16, 17, 18 and 18), two elderly dogs and two amiable cats. Our 24-year-old son Lee—the third oldest of our nine children (four by birth and five by adoption at older ages from Bulgaria and Ethiopia)—had just been diagnosed, to everyone’s astonishment, with a late Stage III colon cancer, so he had moved home. His beautiful girlfriend, Maya Selber, flew down from Philadelphia to join us on the surreal Long March into cancer treatment. This made for seven young people, two middle-aged people, three frequently visiting young adults and four animals under one roof. There was also the deadline (for me) of a book contract, and the pressure (on both my husband and me) of trying to keep everything and everyone afloat financially and emotionally.
“Stay away from the Internet,” the cancer survivors among our friends warned us. “The projections, the statistics, won’t do you any good. They won’t apply to your son anyway.” Our son was a statistical outlier—a 24-year-old with a disease that typically appeared among people in late middle age.
I had no trouble avoiding cancer websites. But I did have trouble working. It wasn’t just the demands of medical tests, consultations and hospital visits, as Lee bravely and compliantly began chemotherapy, radiation and daily self-injections, and faced two surgeries in the not-distant future. It was the fact that, even if I found a free hour, I couldn’t think about anything other than cancer. And the fact that, as a family, we were sliding into a group depression.
Lee happens to be an ebullient, generous, playful fellow. He excels at happiness and at including everyone in the fun. From a young age, he has been our family camp counselor, holiday planner and coach. He tells us when it’s time for touch football, when it’s time for charades and when it’s time to sit down and watch the Atlanta Braves on TV. He knows when we need to buy tickets and go to Turner Field instead. He knows when we need company (always), when it’s time to decorate the den for the start of the Falcons season and when I must buy the Settlers of Catan Expansion Pack for Additional Players. He knows when he and his siblings need to go to late-night bowling.
His professional life reflects his flair for play. He is a teacher and coach at a school for teens and young adults on the autism spectrum. Over the last few years, he has organized sports and games for Ethiopian orphans, for children hospitalized with heart defects, for teenage Sudanese and Eritrean refugees in Israel and for destitute children in Haiti.
In the summer of 2012, Lee and Maya created a children’s recreation program in the town of Kenscoff, Haiti. When they returned, Lee, always slender, startled us because he’d lost more than 20 pounds. He insisted he was fine; he must have lost weight from eating nothing but plantains all summer and from some gastrointestinal bug. Everyone agreed it had to be an amoebic infection. Until it wasn’t.
The day the GI doc phoned with the definitive diagnosis of an enormous malignant tumor, I found Lee sitting in the dark in the living room. “How are you doing?” I asked.
“I just feel so … lucky,” he said.
“If I were Haitian, I would die of this. If I were Ethiopian, I would die of this.”
That was his stance: gratitude—for family and friends, for Emory University Hospital, for Obamacare (that allowed us to carry him, at 24, on my husband’s law firm’s insurance policy)—and humor. The day the surgeon estimated that the tumor must have been growing for a decade, we pondered the news over dinner. “Lee,” I said. “This means that middle school, high school, working in Ethiopia, gap year in Israel, college at Oberlin, college in Israel, working in Haiti, everything you have done, you have done with cancer. Now you’re starting treatment. Sometime next year, you’ll experience life without cancer for the first time since you were 13 or 14.”
“My Major League Baseball career! It’s not too late!” he cried.
“Maybe you’ll have musical or artistic gifts!” I said.
“I won’t be the slowest of the six brothers anymore!” he yelled.
But Yosef, 15, our almost-six-foot-tall Ethiopian son, corrected him: “No, Lee, you will still be the slowest.”
Lee, already a Fantasy Football League player, created additional leagues that fall so that far-flung siblings, cousins and friends from Haifa, Jerusalem, San Francisco, Oberlin, Columbus and Detroit could remain in daily touch without mentioning the one topic he didn’t want to talk about. But, as chemotherapy and radiation took up more and more of his time, his energy flagged. Little by little, he passed on pickup football and front-yard soccer and driveway basketball. Then he began declining board games. Constantly obliged to fast or to follow a liquid diet, he stopped telling us when it was a good night for pizza, when we needed fresh bagels and when he hoped I would make lasagna. Because our younger children had experienced great loss in their young lives— the four Ethiopian children had been orphaned by disease, had lost siblings to disease—sorrow ran through our house. Behind closed bedroom doors at night, teenagers were crying.
I began searching the Internet for information. Not for information about colon cancer in 24-year-olds. For information about rescue dogs. It was pure fantasy to look at their pictures and to imagine leading one away to a life of love and happiness, dogs and teenage athletes, fields and woods. Searching the shelter and rescue websites every day for an adoptable, medium-sized dog became my great escape. Like Fantasy Football, it was Not Cancer.
For an animal lover, there are few harder things to look at than photos of dogs behind bars, especially those at county shelters with significant kill ratios. I don’t know which are sadder: the lackluster eyes of dogs who have abandoned all hope, who sit with slumped shoulders gazing down at the cement, or the still-bright eyes of dogs who, with pricked ears and lifted eyebrows, believe someone is coming for them. Photos of dogs in foster homes pierced me, too, because the pups lolling across someone’s lap in a back yard, with wideopen smiles, clearly thought they had a family, when in fact they were still in limbo, their futures uncertain.
“Do you think we should get another dog?” I asked my husband one night in a high-pitched voice as though expressing a sudden passing thought.
Despite the fact that we were in the midst of a major medical emergency, my husband, Don Samuel, a criminal defense attorney, the man who had agreed every step of the way about adding another child until we ended up with nine, said yes.
“Three dogs aren’t too many dogs?”
“Franny and Theo nap most of the time now.”
“And they say dogs are a great consolation for people going through cancer treatment.”
“You know Maya never had a dog? This would be such an amazing experience for her, something fun to come home to after a long day of sitting in the chemo infusion room.”
“Definitely,” he said, wondering why I offered so many supporting arguments for an idea he’d liked instantly.
I returned to the Internet the next morning with zest. I studied the names, genders, backstories, estimated ages and guessed-at breed mixes of scores of dogs. I attended weekend pet-adoption events. But I came home with only pet food.
I didn’t rush into a commitment, because actually bringing home a dog would mean I’d have to give up my fantasy life of browsing for a dog. I wasn’t sure an actual dog could replace this vicarious escape.
Then I saw a picture of the little brown Terrier. The photograph was blurry in the foreground—because he was pushing his trembly, wet, black nose too close to the camera—and blurry in the rear—because his tail wagged so fast. He looked boyish, mischievous, something like Lady and the Tramp’s Tramp. There he is! I thought.
Typing quickly, I emailed the rescue group (from which we’d adopted our black-and-white kitty the previous summer) and said, “We’re interested! Is he still available?”
I held my breath. How could someone so cute still be available even 60 seconds after his photo went up? He was still available!
“Do you want to go meet a dog?” I asked Lee.
“What??!! Really?” he cried. “Really?”
All the kids yelled: “Really? We’re getting another dog?!”
“I don’t know, I don’t know!” I said. “We’re just going to meet one.”
That Sunday at the foster home, the first thing I saw was a curious black nose busily poking here and there through the slats of the backyard fence. I recognized that nose! And here he came, tearing into the front yard, frisking through the grass to meet everyone.
It wasn’t love at first sight for me. For me it was more: Okay. And something like: He looks nicely proportioned.
It wasn’t love at first sight for anyone. “What do you think?
What do you think?” we all asked one another.
“Let’s give him a try,” said Donny.
“Do you have a clue how he is with cats?” I asked.
“Take him home for a week,” said one of the foster dads.
“The rescue group knows your family. See how he does with your cats.”
So we led him into the car and he squashed over everybody trying to get his head out a window.
He rampaged through the house all weekend. He sprinted into my bedroom, saw me reading on the bed, jumped up and bounced off the bed, and tore out of the room. He was a steel ball in a pinball machine. We were the levers.
“Are we keeping him?” we asked one another.
“If we’re keeping him, he needs a name,” I said. I felt unsure. I felt: not in love. I felt: I can’t even fall in love with him if he doesn’t have a name. I felt suddenly aware of the work involved in assimilating a stray dog into the household. The two cats and the elderly Dachshund had already signaled thumbs-down. Only the 12-year-old Rat Terrier, Franny, approved of him; she had accepted his polite licks and gestures of youth and respect. But then, Franny was a saint. I wasn’t. I thought: Can I—should I—really take him on at this time?
But he needed a home. We had one.
God knows we needed an infusion of joie de vivre. He offered that.
“Let’s keep him,” I said.
“What are you thinking? Of course we’re keeping him!” my husband laughed.
Lee and Maya assumed the responsibility of choosing a name. By Monday night, the little fellow became Bodie. By Tuesday morning, it was as if he’d always been Bodie. Maya touched him only gingerly at first; his rough fur felt greasy to her. (She’d grown up in one of those families in which a parent pretends to be allergic to dogs; she’d never been this close to a dog before.) She startled when Bodie nestled against her leg, or when he sat up and looked her straight in the eye, apparently asking for something. To be petted? She touched the top of his head cautiously, with one finger, and he settled back down with a groan of contentment.
When Lee bathed Bodie for the first time, Maya stood back, taking pictures with her iPhone. She laughed at his slicked-down, mournful look in the bathtub, screamed when he escaped and scattered water through the house, and marveled when his fur dried to a remarkable and colorful silkiness. (According to a later doggie-DNA test, the foster dads were right: there was no Cairn in him, but one parent was purebred Yorkshire Terrier). He wasn’t a monochrome brown dog: he was streaked with hues of wood-brown, gray, khaki and gold, growing lighter from his back to his front as though he’d been held by the nose and dipped in chocolatebrown pigment, which then ran off the length of him. The soft down on his narrow chest was champagne-colored.
He adapted easily to home life, to family life. He was naturally housetrained; the modest type, he preferred to conceal himself behind a distant tree or bush for elimination. He made peace with the Dachshund and the cats within the week. He waited for permission before jumping up on our beds: he sat, hoping for a word or gesture. If you forgot to invite him up, he gave a few soft reminder yips. He joined the teenagers on their soccer fields and stole the ball. His dog manners were excellent. Somewhere I’ve read that stray dogs are often the best socialized. He was instantly popular at dog parks, glad-handing everyone, chatting everyone up. He could have run for office.
When Lee was laid up for hours or days, Bodie snuggled loyally with him. He laid his face across Lee’s sleeping body with a melancholy look and refused to leave the bed. When Lee felt a little better, he pulled himself together in order to take Bodie for a walk; through the months of intense treatment, Lee’s walks were dedicated to Bodie’s health and happiness, as if they had nothing to do with his own. He had major surgery in March 2013. On the fourth day after surgery, Lee was able to leave his hospital floor and ride the elevator down to a small park on the hospital grounds. We brought Bodie to visit him. Such joy all around!
Maya fell head-over-heels in love with her silly pup. Watching her made me wonder if it was almost worthwhile to grow up without a dog so that, at 24, you could fall in love with your first one so boundlessly and breathtakingly. Whatever he did became her little nicknames for him: “You little licker,” she cooed. “You little barker. You little muddyface.” He was smart and eager to learn. She taught him to sit, to stay, to come, to shake, to fist-bump and to roll over.
Bodie was happy all the time. He trotted, smiled and wiggled with happiness. He loved every person in our family. In parks, he ran so fast, with such freedom and joy, that he nearly took flight. From the prick of his ears to the loft of his tail, Bodie had Not Cancer written all over him.
One night, Lee announced: “We don’t think it’s possible to love anyone more than we love Bodie. Are you saying people love their children more than this?”
“Hmmm, probably,” I said.
“That’s not possible. Bodie is the cutest thing on earth,” he said.
I agreed completely! Bodie is the cutest thing on the planet! My very first instinct—my lightning-fast reaction when I first saw his photograph—had been accurate. How on earth could I have thought only, “He’s okay” and “He’s proportional” when I first met him? How was it possible, that first weekend, that we hadn’t realized we were in the presence of someone so adorable and so incredibly gifted and special? Love was absent then, so we couldn’t see clearly. Now that we’re in love, we understand that Bodie’s gifts are just like Lee’s. He lives to make friends, to have fun, to share his extraordinary sense of everyday joy.
Lee’s cancer is in remission now, the 14 months of struggle, pain and treatment nearly finished. He, Maya and Bodie moved to their own apartment (situated on a dog park and next-door to a park and jogging trail). Bodie visits our house every day and (when Lee and Maya are out late with friends) he sometimes sleeps over. Thanks to his doctors, family, friends, Maya and Bodie, Lee feels that the past year—on balance— has been a great one.
Have you heard about the couple in Northern California who were out walking their dog on their property and stumbled upon the greatest treasure of rare gold coins ever found in the U.S? It was buried in eight old tin cans, under an old tree. It’s a great story and evidence that dog walking is definitely worth its weight in gold. The coins, all 1,427 of them, date from 1847 to 1894, the height of the Gold Rush, and have initially been appraised at being worth $10 million. One $20 gold coin, minted in 1866 before the slogan “In God We Trust” appeared on coins, is so rare that by itself could fetch $1 million. The couple, and their pooch, wisely wish to remain anonymous and have lived in this rural area of California’s Gold Country for several years. They did say that this treasure means that now they can keep their property, the man adding, “Like a lot of people lately, we’ve had some financial trials, I feel extreme gratitude that we can keep our beloved property.” The couple also noted that they want to donate some of the proceeds to the homeless and hungry in their area.
What treasures or special finds has your dog sniffed out?
For more news on this story.
We just got this wonderful note and video from Tamandra Michaels, a perfect representative for our slogan, Dog Is My Co-Pilot. She writes:
"I think I tried to share this video I had made of my puppy on your Facebook page, but not sure if was really seen. I just wanted to really share this, as I have your shirt on, and he is so fitting with “dog is my co-pilot.” You blogged about my last Shepherd, who pulled me in my wheelchair, and was a very special guy. I was so devastated to lose him. This current pup has really healed me, and is turning out to be just as special, a very amazing boy! He loves to pull me fast in the chair, but also developed this talent all on his own—and it has to be his idea ha ha. He pushes me with his nose, all over the place. It's just especially cool when I have your shirt on .… It fits my whole philosophy of training, too. Force free, truly a team mate, co-pilot :)"
You can read more about her and this amazing dog, Justice True, on http://journeywithjustice.com
From the Norwegian Association of the Blind
This is a very clever video from the Norwegian Association of the Blind about gaining access for their guide dogs. It's hard to believe that would be in an issue in a socially progressive Scandinavian country, but seems like it is one. So we hope this "Could Have Been Worse" video goes a long way in making it easier for them and their wonderful dogs.
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
A program for children with special needs.
For the past 14 years, my Bernese Mountain Dogs and I have been involved in animalassisted therapy activities through Marin Humane Society’s Special Human-Animal Relationships (SHARE) program. Together, we’ve visited senior residential facilities, our local hospital’s critical care unit, reading programs, classrooms for children with special needs and those involved in humane education, programs for at-risk and troubled youth, and Marin Humane Society (MHS) summer camps. My youngest Berner, Charlotte, has been part of the SHARE program for three years. She’s a gentle soul who makes an immediate connection with everyone, especially children, whom she loves.
In April 2012, Rachel Blackman— whose mother, Darlene Blackman, heads the MHS SHARE and Community Service programs—invited five SHARE teams (including Charlotte and me) to participate in a program she developed for her Girl Scout Gold Award project. Inspired by one of her cousins, who is autistic, and her participation in MHS summer camps, she named it Jumping for Joy.
Jumping for Joy focuses on children with autism and learning disabilities and their families. The six-week program, which is offered at no cost to the participants, provides the children with an opportunity to work with trained animal-assisted therapy (AAT) teams on a canine agility course. Before and after the agility-course work, children and dogs spend time together in the “therapy” part of the program, during which each child receives reassurance, nonjudgmental acceptance and unconditional love from the canine teams.
During the first week, the children and their families meet and spend time with the dogs and watch demonstrations of the equipment they will be using. The focus is on simple cues for each station. Weeks two through five are dedicated to helping the children learn to navigate the jumps, tire, tunnel, A-frame and table with the dogs. Each class involves a demonstration, practice on the course and learning a new skill, as well as time spent with the dogs. To assist the children, Rachel prepares laminated cue cards that show a dog on a particular piece of equipment and the single-word cue that should be used. The final session is attended by families and friends and includes demonstrations and practice. Then, each child takes a dog through the complete agility course and receives a special certificate and medal.
The children in the first session were all from the same school and were well known to each of the SHARE teams from our visits to their classroom. It was rewarding to watch the even deeper bond that developed between the children and the dogs throughout the six weeks of the program. The learning styles and attention capabilities of each child guided the manner and method of their instruction. As a result, all were successful; in the photos taken during the classes, their attention and focus on the dogs and equipment are obvious. Even more telling are the smiles and looks of relaxation and enjoyment on their faces. During our earlier classroom visits, one of the boys was usually reluctant to approach Charlotte. We returned to his class after he completed the program, and what a change! He wanted her to sit right next to him as we worked on his math and writing assignments.
The second session brought a mix of students from three different schools, which provided a few new challenges. Rachel was quick to identify each child’s needs and learning style and provided us with guidance on how best to work with them. A white board with a simple class agenda was helpful for one. For another, having a glove to absorb dog slobber made a huge difference. Each child worked with all of the dogs; however, the children were free to choose which dog they wanted to work with on any individual exercise.
When I reflect on the many AAT programs Charlotte and I have participated in, Jumping for Joy is one of my very favorites. It combines the best of everything: children with special needs, dogs who love and respond to children, and opportunities for the children to be successful in learning new and fun skills. And I absolutely love the fact that the program evolved from the dream of a 15-year-old animal lover. The joy on the children’s faces says it all.
If your local animal-assisted therapy organization would like to learn more about starting a Jumping for Joy program, please email Rachel through the Marin Humane Society; send requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suleika Jaouad is a 25-year-old woman who has been battling leukemia and chronicling this in a blog, “Life, Interrupted,” for the New York Times. In the most recent installment she introduces her puppy, Oscar. Having been wooed by a therapy dog as she during her first rounds of chemo, she had longed for her own dog. As she writes about the effects of the therapy dog visits:
“For the first time since I had fallen ill, I didn’t feel like I was being treated as if I were made of porcelain. The therapy dog made me feel like a human first, and a cancer patient second.”
She had to wait some time after her bone marrow transplant before the doctors gave her the ok to get a dog, but she finally did. At first little Oscar (a shelter adoptee) was a little more “work” than she had expected—as puppies can be:
“Oscar, unlike my caregivers, doesn’t care that I’m tired, feeling nauseous after my chemotherapy treatments. Every morning between 6 and 7, Oscar scoots over to my side of the bed and begins the process of baptizing me with his tongue until I wake up.”
But it didn’t take long for him to open up new worlds for her and help in her recovery.
“Although I was the one who rescued Oscar from an animal shelter, it has become clear that he’s done most of the rescuing in our relationship. … When we leave my apartment, Oscar bounds ahead of me, tugging at his leash as he guides me toward the dog park. For the first time in a very long time, it’s not the cancer that leads. It’s Oscar.”
Do read her whole column here.
A great story out of the UK about the “Woof to Wash”—a new invention that turns a washing machine into one that can be operated by a dog. It makes it rather simple to train service dogs to help disabled people to do their laundry with it. Dogs unlock the machine using a “pawprint” pad, then they pull a rope to open the door, close it with their noses and then bark to start it going. These dogs can even strip beds and fill laundry baskets, and then load and empty the machine too. Amazing, isn’t it?
Inventor, John Middleton had seen a video from the nonprofit, Support Dogs, showing how a dog can strip a bed and load a washing machine, so he thought that he could go one step further and come up with a “bark-activated” machine itself. So with a team of engineers and with the help of Miele, the home appliance maker, they completed this project in little over two weeks.
Support Dogs has trained service dogs using voice commands and hand signals so they can help their owners fetch post, turn on light switches, open doors, assist in dressing and undressing—and now do a complete laundry cycle
As Rita Howson, its director of operations, hailed the bark-activated washing machine and praised John for coming up with a simplified bespoke machine for their clients.
She said “A normal washing machine can be very challenging so the single programme machine is very helpful.”
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